Sunday, January 3, 2016

Rudra: A pinnacle climb in Nashik region

This post is about a beautiful climbing trip spanning the 3-day long holiday over the Christmas weekend from 24th Dec to 26th Dec 2015.

Please note: All photos included in this post are courtesy of Pramod Srinivasula, Kaivalya Varma and Komal Gupta.

Location / Base
Pahine village, near Tryambakeshwar.
Just as you look towards the huge Anjaneri massif towering over the Pahine village, you cannot miss to see this prominent pinnacle jutting out from the ridge that running west from the Anjaneri massif. This is the Rudra pinnacle. The name is much apt for this pinnacle, the one that presents an imposing and dominating presence in its surrounding landscape.

Water can be sourced from the village itself.

The approach from the Pahine village to the base of the pinnacle is a good 75 minute hike.

Day 1: Saturday
We had an all-night  drive from Mumbai to Pahine village on Thursday followed by a long and tiring recce hike and Pahine Navra pinnacle climb taking up much of our Friday. So an early start on Friday was highly unlikely. Likewise, we had a delayed start on Saturday We started at 9 from the campsite and by the time we started climbing, it was already 11.00 am.

The Rudra pinnacle is a 500+ feet of climb over four pitches along its western arete falling towards Pahine village.

Pitch one - 140 feet 
Base to intermediate unstable ledge

A gradual start of 15 feet - 3rd class scramble before the face steepens to vertical. Here, if you decide to go straight ahead you will have to do a  5.10 / 6a move over the bulge. There is no protection whatsoever and a fall would be a deal breaker. I followed a much safer way, which is to move to the right over an easier 5.7 / 5a terrain over some loose rocks and intermediate scree. The route is quite straight forward from here and goes through a distinct open book feature (obtuse dihedral corner). There is not much chance to protect anything till this open book, which nicely gobbles up BD #2 cams. Before the open book feature however, one can only find some poor micro cam placements that offers something, but nothing trustworthy.

Above this open book, you will see a distinct block forming a roof overhead. The second ledge is on top of this roof block. I byassed this roof section from its right and a quick scramble got me to the first ledge. When I reached the ledge, I was good 40 feet above my last protection. Besides, this entire ledge is a shaky and unstable affair. There is no gear placement to build an anchor on this ledge; only a cactus shrub which offers some screen to hammer in a peg. To add to this, the entire ledge vibrated while I was driving in the peg and that did got my stomach churning. I was very slow and cautious as I hammered in the peg. Most of this ledge is rocky and hence it was difficult to find a deep enough scree patch where I could hammer in the peg. I managed to somehow find one and build an anchor. Mahendra (second man) swiftly made his way up to this ledge. As soon as he got there, I got moving from this unstable ledge at the drop of a hat.

Note: I did not carry any pegs, pitons and hammer on this pitch. But after almost running out some serious distance feet over a suspect cam placement 25 feet below me. I stopped over a scree slope with no protection. I did not carry any tag line as well. So I had to pull some rope, make a coil and throw it below to get a couple of pegs. All this while being unprotected on a scree slope. That was a big mistake on my part, which ate up precious 30 minutes, besides adding some unnecessary risks. Lessons learnt: Never move in Sahyadri without a hammer and a peg (and still safer a bolt kit).

Pitch 2 - 80 feet
Unstable first ledge to big second ledge

The second pitch is a good easy climb with ample protection possibilities. This pitch gobbles up anything from Bd #.75 to #2 and the climb itself is straight forward and mellow. The rock is much firmer than the first pitch and the route follows  straight line till the cactus thickets overhead. The last couple of moves before pulling over the ledge are fun 5.7 moves, albeit over some scree.

Second ledge is a big ledge and can accommodate 50 people easily. There is a nice crack that runs vertically along the wall. This crack easts up #1, #2 and #3 BD cams easily and offers a bomber anchor - in much contrast to the first ledge. There is also an old peg (placed by the first ascent Bhramanti team back in 2011) that can be used for the wind up during the descent.

Pitch 3 - 80 feet
Big second ledge to the big third ledge via the traverse

This is the money pitch of the climb. Right off the second ledge, the vertical crack that I used for building the anchor runs straight up for 15 feet before merging on to a horizontal ramp. The route straight ahead is overhanging and devoid of any climbable holds. The route beyond this overhang is straight forward and in  straight line. There were two options to bypass this overhang from the ramp where I was standing. To my right I could see an open book feature, which looked climbable and tempting. It is indeed climbable, but completely unprotected with only a poor micro cam placement possible about 30 feet above the ledge. Other option is to bolt, which I will avoid at all costs on all the climbs unless absolutely required. So, not finding either of the two options palatable, unprotected stiff climbing or bolting, I left that option for the brave heart and took a winding route from the left.

The route form the left traverses for about 25 feet to the left over an easy class 4 but exposed terrain. Then again to the right till the traverse is blocked by a big bulging rock. I had to traverse over this bulging rock to join the straight route on the face beyond the overhang above me. This move to traverse over the bulge was the crux of the climb for me. A completely exposed and insecure move, especially after a 25/30 feet of traverse on blocky terrain. A fall here would have meant bang bang pendulum over the rocks! I placed as many cams as I could and then made a slightly lunging move to the right. The sound of a good slap as my hand hit the sweet spot on the rock brought a respite to that nerve wrecking move. In the hindsight to mellow it all down, I would rate it as no harder than a 5.9 move. But the exposure and uncertainty always adds  grade or two to the feel that is beyond the purview of the difficulty grades!

Beyond this, due to the serious rope drag owing to my numerous cam placements on the traverse, I set up a quick anchor to get Mahendra upto the belay station. Had I set lesser cams for the traverse below, the rope drag would have been more manageable to move on to the second ledge proper.  Once Mahendra made his way to the intermediate belay station, I quickly moved up to the second ledge roper, which was a straightforward climb of 30 feet above the traverse. Second ledge, similar to the first one is a big ledge with offering plenty f bomber gear anchors. I used a BD #.75 #2 and #3 to set up the anchor. Mahendra quickly followed up to the second ledge.

It was 4.45 pm by the time we reached second ledge. We had done 300 feet of good climbing today, with another 200 feet of scramble remaining above us to reach the summit. The remaining scramble was a matter of around 45 minutes. But, since the rest f the team anyway had to climb the pinnacle and we had one more day with us, we decided to wind up for the day and descend to the base camp, leaving the ropes fixed till the third ledge.

Back at the base camp it was a feast, and God knows we needed it badly. It was a long day of good 5 hours and 300 feet of climbing for the day.

Day 2: Sunday

The day was all about mostly fixed rope ascent till the third ledge - the highest point on the pinnacle that I could lead the earlier day. Mahendra jumared first, followed by me. We took around 1 hour to reach the third ledge. Simultaneously Prem and Komal had started to ascend the fixed ropes below us. While they ascended the fixed ropes, I started leading the fourth pitch beyond the third ledge.

Pitch four
Third ledge to final pyramid

The route from the third ledge winds to the left and over an easy, but loose 5th class. After a short section of around 50 feet, I came cross a long scree slope with gradual gradient. It was a scree walk in Karvi bushes, causing some serious  rope drag. As if 300 feet of jumaring earlier was not enough, the rest of whatever energy I had left in me was spent trying to pull myself through the rope drag. I nearly ran out the full 70 meter of the rope length before coming to the base of the final rock patch. I built a gear anchor here and Mahendra quickly followed. Although there was nothing dramatic about this pitch, one thing to note is that it is impossible to communicate with your belayer once you pull over to the scree slopes. To manage this problem, I prussiked my way back down for around 150 feet till the edge of the slope to communicate with Mahendra.

Anyway, once Mahendra was there, it took another 15 minutes to scramble over the remaining 75 feet of easy but loose sections to reach the summit.

The summit is a big one, offering magnificent views of the entire surrounding with an awe inspiring 360 view of the region.

The descent is by rapping off along the climb line. We left one peg near the summit for rapping off from the summit till the tree at the base of the final pyramid.If you have two 100 meter rope coils, you can rap off from the tree just below the final pyramid till the second ledge. From second ledge you can rap off using the peg left by the first ascent team in 2011. However, while rapping off, please be sure to check the condition of the tree and the pegs. We used them, but it may not be in the best condition down the line. Be safe an carry extra pegs for the descent.

I must note that Mahendra did the long wind up quite efficiently and quickly.

Quick stats
  • Route: 500+ feet of four pitch face/arete climbing with long winding sections and traverses.
    • First pitch goes at 5.7
    • Second pitch goes at 5.5
    • Third pitch goes at 5.9
    • Fourth pitch is mix of easy fifth class  mixed with some scree walks and scrambles
  • Best time to climb: November to Feb. SInce most of the route is over an exposed west facing arete, anytime after February will be too hot to climb.
  • Protection: Cams, nuts and pegs (no bolts and pitons)
    • Doubles of BD #.75 to #3 (For pitches two, three and four)
    • Single set of Metolius TCU #0 and #1 or BD X4 # 1 and #2 (For first pitch)
    • Single set of micro nuts BD #1, #2 and #3 
    • 4 pegs - For the anchor on first ledge and descent
    • 6 single length alpine quick draws, Four double length alpine quick draws
    • Two double length slings
    • Anchor building gear - Slings, locking biners, etc. etc. You know the drill!
  • A 60 meter rope will suffice to do it in 4 pitches. However, f you want to link the first two pitches to avoid the unstable first ledge, you'll need a 80m rope. A 70m will not make the cut for linking pitches.
  • 200 meters of static rope for winding up (300 meters if you are fixing up the line all the way to the summit)
  • Rock quality: Poor in the first pitch, good in second and third pitches, scree scrambles in fourth pitch
  • Time required: We did it in two days, but with an early start and small team, it can be done in one long day. 
  • Style: The entire route is climbed in a free and clean, no aid, no fixed pro and bolts.

  • Kaivalya Varma
  • Mahendra Kubal
  • Santosh Nigade
  • Anil Jadhav
  • Komal Gupta
  • Pramod Srinivasula
  • Prem Khilari
  • Prajakta Korde
  • Rohan Rao
Summit party: Rohan, Mahendra, Prem and Komal.

A special and a big note of thanks to the awesome support team.  Kaivalya, being a member of the first ascent team back in 2011, knew the route like the back of his hands and provided valuable guidance all along.

Santosh Nigade and Anil Jadhav were the stars with all their selfless work to manage the campsite and kitchen duties. If it wasn't for their delicious cooking, the trip wouldn't have been so memorable!

Pramod for helping out with the load ferrying and helping out during the climb.

And my dear wife Prajakta for being always there.